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Activist Discusses Electric Cars At SMC's Environmental Issues Lecture Series  

By Jason Islas
Special to the Lookout

May 6, 2011-- This week, locals got a chance to learn more about the latest in sustainability coming – not without a struggle – from the automotive industry.

Guest speaker Paul Scott, an electric car activist and expert featured in the film “Who Killed The Electric Car?” spoke Tuesday at the latest installment in Santa Monica College’s Environmental Issues lecture series.

“Next year, there will be hundreds of electric cars in Santa Monica, thousands in LA,” Scott said to a mixed audience of students and community members at Tuesday's lecture, titled “Why Your Next Car Will Be an EV (Electric Vehicle).”

Scott kicked off his lecture with the moral and political problems attendant on this country's oil consumption.

“We are in three wars over oil,” he said. “Oil companies corrupt our political process.”

“We're going to be a third world nation” as a result of the our dependence on oil, Scott predicted.

After delivering his political opinions, Scott discussed some of the technical aspects of the growing electric car market.

Responding to questions from the audience, he explained that currently, electric vehicles such as his Nissan Leaf have a range of about 100 miles when fully charged.

For now, the fastest a car could be fully recharged is 30 minutes, adding about an hour and a half to 300 mile a road trip.

“But I probably wouldn't go much farther than San Francisco,” Scott added, since the logistics of long-range travel are still a challenge for electric cars.

On-board computers help electric car drivers find charging stations around the country, since they are not as easy to find as gas stations.

An audience member asked Scott what he thought about hydrogen fueled cars.

He said that the hydrogen car was used as an excuse by the oil companies to kill the electric car.

Scott added that he thought the technology was much more expensive and, practically, unfeasible as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Currently, the average price range for an electric car is between $30,000 and $35,000. But, Scott added, the government offers subsidies which could reduce the cost of buying an electric car to about $28,000.

Most homes come with “Level 2” power outlets necessary to charge electric cars, he said. It is the same output that heavy appliances like washing machines run on.

A “Level 3” output, or “DC quick charge,” which can fully charge an electric car in 30 minutes, requires more hardware and investment, Scott said, adding that he thinks it's worth the money.

After the lecture, Scott showed the audience his Nissan Leaf, a fully-electric vehicle which charges both by plugging it in and with a rear solar panel that “trickle-charges” the battery during the day.

“I want these other cars off the road,” Scott said of gas-powered cars, emphasizing the health concerns caused by exhaust.

The Environmental Issues lecture series is sponsored by SMC's Center for Environmental and Urban studies.

Since 2002, Professor William Selby has linked the lecture series to his Environmental Studies course. Each semester, he invites several several speakers and opens the lectures to the community.

Sustainable Works, a non-profit environmental education organization, speaks every semester, Selby said.

Selby also told the Lookout that Heal the Bay has participated in the lecture series in the past, speaking on sustainable seafood and local contamination issues.

Last year, documentary filmmaker, Margaret Bach spoke about “Landscape with Angels,” a film she made in the 70s about the future of Los Angeles' urban landscape.

The next lecture will be the last for the semester and is called, “Green Screens are Growing.” SMC professor and filmmaker Sheila Laffey will talk about “making new films that are challenging us to become more sustainable,” Selby said.

That lecture will be on Tuesday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. at SMC's Bundy Campus, Room 123.


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